On Thursday the U.S.N.S. Comfort sat in the New York Harbor with twenty patients, with the majority of its 1000 beds and 1200 crew members mostly idle.
As New York hospitals struggle to find room for COVID-19 patients, the huge white floating hospital remains essentially empty, infuriating hospital executives, including the head of New York’s largest health system.
“If I’m blunt about it, it’s a joke,” said Michael Dowling, the head of Northwell Health, New York’s largest hospital system. “Everyone can say, ‘Thank you for putting up these wonderful places and opening up these cavernous halls.’ But we’re in a crisis here, we’re in a battlefield.”
The Comfort was sent to New York to take on patients with non-COVID-19 ailments, but a bureaucratic mess prevents the Comfort from taking on cases of many other conditions. Guidelines include 49 other symptoms that would exclude a patient from boarding the ship. Patients would also enter a city hospital first to be evaluated, including being tested for the coronavirus before being transported to the Navy ship.
Across the city, hospitals are overrun. Patients have died in hallways before they could even be hooked up to one of the few available ventilators in New York. Doctors and nurses, who have had to use the same protective gear again and again, are getting sick. So many people are dying that the city is running low on body bags.
At the same time, there is not a high volume of noncoronavirus patients. Because most New Yorkers have isolated themselves in their homes, there are fewer injuries from car accidents, gun shots and construction accidents that would require an emergency room visit.
You can read the rest of this story at the New York Times.